OKLAHOMA CITY — The ACLU of Oklahoma and 19 American Civil Liberties Union affiliates sent letters to local elected officials across the country urging them to issue or expand statewide moratoria against evictions and utility shut-offs and commit to preventing mass evictions after these moratoria end.
Across the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic has already resulted in widespread and devastating economic consequences, as unemployment claims continue to climb. In the face of staggering unemployment numbers, millions of tenants face the imminent threat of losing their homes or access to utility services due to the inability to pay. The ACLU is calling for the prevention of mass evictions in the midst of this global COVID-19 public health crisis.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has already resulted in widespread and devastating economic consequences across the Nation,” said Ryan Kiesel, ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director. “But Oklahomans are particularly vulnerable, facing significant levels of unemployment, the imminent threat of losing their homes or access to utility services is no longer paycheck to paycheck, it is day to day. And these consequences risk further spread of COVID-19 throughout Oklahoma and undermine efforts to protect public health and well-being. Moreover, the nearly guaranteed wave of evictions and utility shut-offs would inflict far-reaching and significant economic and social harm on thousands of Oklahoma’s residents -- particularly on women, people of color, low-income residents, and other vulnerable communities.”
The ACLU of Oklahoma’s letter calls on Governor Stitt to issue a comprehensive moratorium that will:
- Halt every stage of the eviction process;
- Continue to prevent mass evictions during and after the pandemic;
- Apply to all types of tenants and lease violations;
- Prohibit the collection of late fees and retaliation against tenants who assert their rights under the moratorium;
- Prohibit utility shut-offs and require restoration of previously disconnected services.
“As millions of people lose their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, renters are faced with the added threat of being put out of their homes or cut off from access to utilities during a global crisis,” said Sandra Park, senior attorney at the ACLU. “Evictions and utility shut-offs will disproportionately harm communities of color, and particularly, women of color. All residents — regardless of their circumstances or background — should have access to safe and stable housing throughout the course of this ongoing public health crisis.”
The ACLU has worked over the years to address unfair eviction screening policies, which disproportionately undermine housing opportunities for women of color and will present a barrier to safe housing opportunities if mass evictions take place.